Friday, May 30, 2008

Back to abnormal...

We have been home from the Rockies for five days now, and life is settling back into what now resembles normal for us. It felt really good to step off the plane onto this sunny, friendly little island nation that we call home. Strange how much I missed this place after only a few days.

Actually, I guess it was three and a half days enjoying Colorado and several life sentences spent hanging around the Miami Airport.

I have been playing with my old obsolete digital camera now that I finally found some batteries for it. I had not been able to uses it for three years. It's slow, it only has 5 mp resolution (Gasp!) but it has some decent Zeiss optics and a 10x zoom. I think the better glass is eventually going to capture some good shots. So I have been stalking around, camera in hand, looking for something interesting to take a photo of. Alas, the views here lately have been pretty humdrum. Other than all the stuff regular readers already know about, nothing much has been happening. Kind of sad, we had hoped that a lot of things would happen in our absence. Ha.

I had taken a photo of the old stranded and falling-apart freighter "La Familia" early this month. A friend on Pine Cay was thinking about putting a small WiFi relay station on it so that he could tap into our internet connection. Here is that view taken with my new camera:



It's still sitting there slowly falling apart on the Caicos Bank. I snapped another photo of it this morning with my old camera for comparison:



That's 4.35 miles (about 7 km) away. And the older camera's image is certainly an improvement over the little pocket digital. Both mornings were hazy, and both photos taken from the same spot on the patio at max zoom on each camera. I am coming to realize that, with digital cameras, at some point optics are more important than more pixels. I am still new at this photography stuff, but having a lot of fun with it. Of course I was hoping for some electrical storms..a dazzling sunrise or sunset...maybe a half dozen waterspouts. ANYthing that would make an interesting photo. Nada.

One of us, of course, has absolutely NO use for electrical storms, and that would be Dooley the Dastardly Dog. He can't relax if he hears thunder. He cringes at his memories of thunders of years past. He gets nervous just contemplating thunders to come. Yesterday he was out working on his tan. I think he feels conspicuous with his 'jail-house pallor' after spending five days in cages while we were gone...



He gives me a dirty look if he even hears me mention storms. He gets all slitty-eyed if he suspects that I am hoping for some good lightning displays. We are getting into the time of the year. I can't wait. Dooley, well, he says he definitley can wait. In fact I am pretty sure he would be perfectly happy to live out the remainder of his life on this planet without ever experiencing another thunderclap. Little wimp.

With the house located near one of the major marinas here on the island we get to watch a lot of boat traffic in and out. Some come to take on fuel and water. Many come here for repairs. Being boat-lovers ourselves we watch all of them with interest. Still playing with the recently resurrected camera I was snapping some photos today.

This boat left and headed South, and that's a little unusual this time of the year:



(the local atmosphere has been hazy lately, so the photos are not the best. Sorry.)

Most of the sailing cruisers seem to like to be either way North, or way South (Trinidad) before hurricane season. Which starts tomorrow,by the way. We are pretty much in the middle of the hurricane belt here, of course. And while I am sure they might be interesting blog fodder, those are some photos I don't really want to be taking. If given my 'druthers', I mean.

At one point this morning we had two of the local live-aboard dive boats sitting at anchor waiting for space at the fuel dock. Here are the Explorer II, and I think the Agressor:



Here is another view of the Explorer II.



The marine archaeology group that is coming to the TCI this summer to investigate some old shipwrecks has chartered this boat for essentially the whole month of July. La Gringa and I have been invited to participate in their search. I think we might take them up on it, and lend them a hand with the survey work. That kind of stuff is extremely familiar to me. We have also offered to show the researchers some of the shipwrecks that we have discovered on our own. Fun stuff.

I took a lot more boat photos than that, but this is probably enough boat pix for one post. I might slip another one in later.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch....we returned from our trip to find Munn and Patrick completely stripping the paint off the deck over the garage....sigh...



Seems like every time we get a glimpse of the light at the end of the tunnel with this house construction....somebody builds more tunnel.

They had originally rolled on this FlexTec coating. Rolled it on flat. It wasn't supposed to be applied with a roller. Our architect hit the roof over it. We really didn't think we much cared whether it was rolled on or daubed on with a trowel. We didn't think it should make much difference. Actually we just wanted it finished and to not have to deal with workers in our house six days a week while we are living here. We know our builder tried to save a few bucks by having his own guys apply it instead of hiring a subcontractor who specializes in this stuff. Despite the fact that the spec for the house clearly states that the application of this stuff was to be done by someone familiar with the product and finish. We were actually going to let it slide. Just finish the house. And then in frustration at our lack of concern, the architect brought over a sample of what the deck floor was supposed to look like:



Oh yeah, now we understand why he was hot under the collar about it. The texture looks so much better than the smooth painted-on finish. It will be safer with wet feet. It will drain better because it's thicker. We had to agree with the architect. Of course this will add more time to finishing the house. Nobody has stated it yet, but I am thinking three weeks sounds about right...

I guess it must have been windy while we were away. The new palm trees on the windward side of the house all have little support straps holding them upright now:



The dirt pile that will eventually be the second driveway is slowly taking shape. Although absolutely NOTHING got done during the time we were gone.



Today four more loads of fill were delivered. Dumped on the road in front of the house. The guy running the Bobcat (Jesus prounounced "Hey Seus" of course) apparently is pretty particular about his hair, and this stuff produces a ton of dust in this wind. So Jesus wraps up like a terrorist to transfer the piles from the road to the future driveway:



Most of the plants seem to be making the adjustment from their pampered nursery beginnings to life in the real world:



Now if we can just get that sat dish to do a palm tree or cactus impersonation...

We are having torrential downpours at the moment...or I guess I can accurately say tropical downpours. But before the rain started Jesus was busily transporting bucket loads of fill from the pile to the driveway:



(you can just see the approaching squall line behind him. Hey, didn't we used to have a dog around here somewhere?)

I was paying a lot of attention to this, me now being among the brotherhood of Bobcat drivers, of course. Well, really I was watching him more because he has already chewed up an expensive new garden watering hose with that thing.

I pointed out to him, with gestures and my pidgin Spanish, that his left front tire was completely out of air and trying to work it's way off the rim:



He shut the machine off for a moment, looked at the tire, fired off a shrug and a stream of what sounded to me like extremely fluent Spanish, and went back to work. I suppose it's not realistic of me to expect him to avoid driving this thing over my garden hose. Reminds me of the old phrase..."beaten like a rented mule.."

Yesterday the upholstery lady started bringing the furniture back. La Gringa has arranged to get just about every piece re-covered and it completely transforms the way it looks. Looking at the outside of this house we decided that it looks like the kind of place that would have black, white, and chrome inside. Well, we decided to make the inside a riot of color. This is a good start, with the rest of it due back by early next week:



And she just put that coffee table on my growing list of things that need re-finishing.

We hauled a 5 inch diameter green limb from a Casurinas tree (also called Australian Pine, although it's nothing like pine at all) back in the boat with us from another island last week. I finally sawed it into a small pile of planks this week:



I sealed the end grain up with glue, and will stack it where it can dry for a few months while I think of what I want to do with it.



I am limited to 3" widths since I am using a table saw to cut the planks. Eventually I hope to pick up a decent bandsaw and I set up the workbenches so that I can support and re-saw much wider planks. This wood has a lot of potential.

I am very interested in the concept of working with local hardwoods and this stuff is looking pretty good so far. It's hard, dense, with a close grain. Now I just need to see how stable it is when it dries. I suspect it would be good for turning with a lathe. So there will definitely be some DIY posts coming up.

Speaking of DIY...the beginning of the rainy season is pressuring me to finally do something about the cistern "first-flush" situation. When we were buying water by the tankload we really didn't have a silt problem. The Reverse Osmosis desalinated water is clean. No dust in it at all, and the filters I installed handle it just fine. But now that we are getting rain every few days the dust that accumulates on the roof between storms is getting washed into the cisterns. I tried to find a commercially viable device to install, but am giving up. The only things I could find online are Australian-made. They could be modified for what we need, but unfortunately for me they only come in metric PVC sizes. And I have to deal with inches. So, bottom line is that once again I am going to have to invent my own. Keeping in mind that local availability of materials is good, I have come up with this re-modified modification of an earlier modified design:



I have calculated how much water we need to divert, and I can store that with a six foot length of 6" PVC on each cistern. The little floating ball is not as critical as with my earlier idea. The water will get diverted into the cistern when the dirty water tube is filled whether or not I have the ball in there as a check valve. I think it will work. It's cheap. And of course, simplicity is a real good design criteria.

So, that's the situation here, on this last day of May in 2008. We are back on our little hilltop on this little island, where men still go out early in small boats to make a living from the sea...



And where I am now better equipped photographically to snap some good sunset photos. If the sunsets will just cooperate. So far this week, they have been just our ordinary sunsets:



But I am sure some colorful ones will be forthcoming during thunderstorm season.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

One problem with your drawing. The "drip" valve needs to be up about 3 or 4 inches on the side, so it will not stop up with silt. Then you can have a "flush" valve at the bottom to let the silt out every so often....

Captain Dubble

Gringo said...

Hi Capt. D.
You are absolutely right. I had not changed the drawing,but I was thinking the same thing. I have not worked out yet the best way to add a 'spigot" to the curved side of a piece of PVC pipe. Maybe there is something made to do that,but I can't find anything that looks like it should work locally.

I also thought about adding a small hole at the top to let the air out as the tube fills.

Anonymous said...

As thick as the PVC will be for the catch tube, I think you could easily just drill a hole in it and tap it for say 3/8 pipe thread. Even 1/4" pipe would probably drain it fast enough after it fills. Also, I see no reason for the check valve. You may also want to have the pipe after the Tee one size larger than the incoming pipe so no intial silt would bubble up through the top of the tee from the pressure of the water coming in..and the air hole is gonna be a must or pressure will build up and cause the water to flow out the tee before it should.

Captain Dubble

Gringo said...

I was toying with the idea of cutting a small scrap piece of whatever diameter pipe I use, and gluing that to the outside with PVC cement just to double the wall thickness at that point. Then drill and tap it, as you said. Strangely enough, I just bought a set of taps and dies at Sears in Denver last week!

I want to be able to control the amount of drip, or even open it wide open to drain, so I do want some kind of valve there.

Oh, I agree the ball is not really needed as a check valve. I was thinking of using a tennis ball, and it's major contribution to the design is to help keep the silty water from mixing with the clean water in the horizontal pipe before welling up out of the t.